After holding a public hearing in which no one spoke, Halifax Town Council set approval and appropriation of the FY 2019-20 budget for June 26 when they plan to hold a special meeting and joint public hearing with the Halifax Planning Commission at 7 p.m. at Halifax Town Hall.

The $1,285,622 budget includes no tax increase, but it does include increases to various departments largely due to grant-funded projects for the Banister River Blueway and the downtown streetscape extension.

Bill Covington, finance chair, said, “We have not found a need to raise taxes.”

However, he noted the real estate tax has remained the same since 2010.

“It’s getting harder and harder to balance the budget without any increases. There may be a need in the future to find some type of way to increase our revenues,” he added.

Nonetheless, the real estate tax rate remains at 17 1/2 cents per $100, personal property tax rate will stay at $1.68 per $100, the machinery and tools tax will continue to be 50 cents per $100, the lodging tax rate remains at 3.5% and the meals sales tax will stay at 4%.

But councilman Bill Confroy suggested raising taxes might be worth it in the future.

He said the town has not seized every opportunity they could have, pointing out it takes capital to grow.

In addition to no tax increases, the budget also includes employee raises up to 2% based on annual evaluations.

The budget also is growing for each department, mostly due to grants, with the largest increase in the budgeted monies for street projects. That line item is increasing by $151,790 or 206.67%.

This reflects the $150,237 VDOT Map 21 grant funds for the downtown streetscape extension project. It also includes funds for the town cemetery, street capital outlay-sidewalk repair program and VDOT storm water improvements as well as Clock Plaza landscaping and Banister Gateways and upkeep.

The administrative department is increasing by $36,325, or 9.66%, which also includes grant monies for the streetscape project as well as funding for the Virginia Commission for the Arts, public notices, telecommunications infrastructure, HART bus, accounting and billing system, local enterprise zone and more.

Business development accounts for 2% of the general fund budget, with an increase of $7,000 due to a Commercial District Affiliate Grant.

The events coordinator position has been eliminated, and several activities have been funded thanks to Halifax Village Association requests.

This also includes funding for the Halifax Farmers Market, the VTC and DHCD for economic development and tourism strategic plan and the Virginia Main Street four-point approach over the next two years.

Funding for the sanitation department is increasing by $2,670, or 1.85%, for Sanitation Technician I and II for maintenance of streetscape, gateway and landscaping and for waster/recycling duties as well as replacement of a trash truck.

Municipal building expenses have increased by 31.23% including funding for exterior and interior repair and improvements, energy conservation and ADA compliance, restrooms and front entry additional roof repairs needed at the Halifax Farmers Market as well as utility expenses.

The police funds have increased by 3.54% reflecting five full-time positions, including the police chief and an anticipated new hire, vehicle expenses and their additional expenses.

Funding for the Halifax Volunteer Fire Department has increased by $350, or 0.64%, which town manager Carl Espy said is due to insurance premium increases.

Following adoption of the budget, the June 26 meeting also will include a public hearing with the Halifax Planning Commission for a special use permit application request by Erin Shaughnessy to run a home occupation business in R-1 Residential Zoning District at 615 Mountain Road.

In other action Tuesday, council members ratified appointments of Mark Thackston and LaTonya Hamilton to the Halifax County Service Authority Board of Directors and approved proposed amendments to Halifax Town Code Chapter 38 “Health and Sanitation.”

After months of discussion, council members unanimously approved the amended code that now includes articles on weeds and debris and running bamboo.

Councilman Mike Trent, who mostly worked on the code along with Councilman Jack Dunavant, said the code had been submitted to the town’s attorney who provided positive feedback.

Dunavant was absent from Tuesday’s meeting.

With the changes, Trent said now individuals who are not financially able to clear their property will not be fined, and homeowners have the ability to go over their property by three feet when clearing land.

He also said individuals will not responsible for a problem they didn’t create, but they could be liable if they do not accept public or private assistance to deal with the matter.

“I think it’s a good balance,” said Trent, who also said he had not heard any specific objections on the recent changes.

“I think it should it pass,” he added, before offering a motion to approve the amended changes that was seconded by Covington. The motion unanimously passed.

Council also heard the monthly police report from Stuart Comer, Halifax police chief, who reported three felony arrests, eight misdemeanor arrests, 564 calls of service, 54 traffic summons, one traffic accident and 51 warnings issued for the month of May.

Prior to the regular meeting and public hearing, business development chair Trent, finance chair Covington and current affairs chair Confroy gave their respective reports.

The Halifax Farmers Market is holding a grand opening from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on June 29 featuring local farmers and other individuals selling vegetables, meats, herbs, basked goods, jams and jellies, pork skins, flowers, arts and crafts and more.

Free samples will be provided along with a recipe basket, snacks for children and fresh popcorn. An ice cream truck will be at the market from noon until 1 p.m.

Free goody bags with market and vendor discounts will be given to the first 50 customers.

Ashley Hodge reports for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact her at ahodge@gazettevirginian.com

Ashley Hodge is a staff writer for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact her at ahodge@gazettevirginian.com